After establishing a licensed nature preschool in Maryland, it didn't take long to realize that more nature-based schools would sprout up across America. At the time I could only count 12 nature preschools and forest kindergartens in the U.S. (though surely there were more). Responsible for leading a new nature preschool team, I was frustrated at the limited sources of training for nature-based early childhood educators and directors. There were countless training opportunities for traditional childcare providers or for outdoor educators. But the unique field for professionals in nature preschools and forest kindergartens was still so new, there were virtually no mainstream PD opportunities for us.
This was the start of an important realization for me: if we want to connect children and families with nature, we must give teachers, childcare providers, and administrators the relevant training that they need.
Since that time, I marvel at the influx of nature-based schools and programs in the U.S. We are part of an interwoven network that spans not only the U.S., but around the globe. Forest and nature schools in America have cross-pollinated with international outdoor learning traditions in the most inspiring ways... and it is amazing! But how can we tackle such diverse training needs? There are such nuanced approaches to nature preschools, forest kindergartens, nature-based programs set in traditional schools, outdoor learning programs in public schools, forest schools, nature-based childcare, and the list goes on and on. How can we address the dynamic needs of each learning community to best serve teachers and children?
One part of the solution is to offer training close to home, serving small cohorts of teachers who network and support one another. Little by little, these interconnected networks can build capacity to support all the amazing work emerging in nature-based education. I am honored to have this opportunity to move our field forward by "connecting the dots" across the region, bringing meaningful nature-based training to your neck of the woods.
If we want to continue to grow nature-based education, we must address the professional needs of those who facilitate it. It's that simple. That is why ERAFANS was created, and that will always be our central focus.
Together let's keep the wonder and wild alive in every teacher...and child!
Finding Peace in Nature,
Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (ERAFANS)